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Posted - 08/21/2014
HighWaterLine|UK Workshop by Heidi Quante
Screen_Shot_2013_11_14_at_12.30.08_PM.pngClimate activist and Invoking the Pause Grant Partner Heidi Quante of HighWaterLine, takes the concepts from her first ITP grant project with collaborator and HighWaterLine New York artist Eve Mosher, to the next level with an ITP "Seeding Possibilities" grant. As a result, Heidi recounts the workshops she conducted in the UK:  

"Due to generous support from Invoking the Pause, I traveled to Bristol, England in the early part of 2014 to lead the first HighWaterLine | UK workshop.  In this workshop myself, Isobel Tarr (the on the ground Co-Coordinator for HighWaterLine | UK) and Alison Crowther (who has devoted over 20 years to working on climate change issues in the UK), led a 2 part workshop that brought together diverse community members in Bristol." 

The first half of the workshop was incredibly beautiful - participants shared their personal story of resilience - how they overcame a hardship. This personal story telling allowed for people from different communities (immigrants from Somalia & the Middle East, people whose family have been living in Bristol for decades, people from all economic backgrounds and more) to get to know one another at a deeper level while also allowing the participant to realize they already had a personal experience with being resilient.  We then went around the room and shared what all these stories had in common, the unifying element was that another person, either a friend, stranger or family member had helped the storyteller overcome the hardship.  This then led to a beautiful brainstorm of everyone defining how Bristol might become more climate resilient with an emphasis on forging stronger relationships between the various communities.

For the second half of the workshop experts from the community suggested various solutions for both dealing with flooding in the short term (neighborhood emergency response) to the long term (re-imagining the city to better live with water by moving people away from the flood zone, re-wilding high flood risk areas back to marshes to better absorb the water & more).  Please note that by experts we mean- mothers living in the flood zone who have had to evacuate their families during a flood, engineers, local climate scientists, people who had "adopted" a section of the river and knew it's rhythms intimately, people who drive the ferries up and down the river, student architects, biologists, communication experts, local residents who have been documenting all the floods and more.

The workshop concluded with residents agreeing to focus on realizing some of the solutions suggested in the workshop.  In addition, a bevy of amazing, creative suggestions came forward for how to broaden the outreach of the project to fellow neighbors.

These workshops were a great way to kick off the project since it brought members of the Bristol community together in a way they had never been connected before.

Following up Isobel and I co-designed a series of other workshops and meetings with other community members where people fleshed out the solution ideas.  We were suppose to realize the actual HighWaterLine in early July 2014 but tragically, during the last week of June, Isobel received news that her mother had 2 days to live.

Isobel was not only coping with tremendous grief, but since she was also the legal guardian of her mother she had to deal with sorting out the funeral, all legal arrangements and more.

We asked the community if they wanted to realize the project without Isobel or postpone the chalking to a better time.  They unanimously said they wanted to postpone the date and would much rather devote early July to helping Isobel.  So the community decided to postpone the actual chalking to take place September 10-21.

Isobel is back on the project and very excited to be giving her energy to something creative and to be surrounded by so many amazing people who are working on the project."

The HighWaterLine has also piqued the interest of the Environment Agency (the environmental wing of the UK government) and we are discussing the possibility of bringing the HighWaterLine to other UK communities (the most recent IPCC report noted that the UK & EU will most likely be experiencing heavy rainfall and therefore increased flooding as climate change accelerates.  The report also highlighted that the UK will be hit the hardest by increased rainfall.  Since there are many communities along the coast and along rivers (London being a prime example), the HighWaterLine is a great project to help people visualize the future impacts of climate change with the hope it sparks action).

Heidi Quante saw HighWaterLine as an innovative way for communities to tackle the massive challenge of transforming climate change into a local issue. Heidi brings with her 14 years of designing environmental and human rights campaigns. For the last 7 years she has been following her passion of creating creative communication projects that engage the public in pressing issues. Heidi loves the people she collaborates with and is constantly inspired by the vibrant and creative ideas generated in HighWaterLine partnerships.